Talent Management: Consequence of Tolerating Toxic Work Areas

For organizations that meet their TM needs through internal development processes there is significant uncertainty and risk (U&R) associated with allowing sub-performance subcultures to exist in experiential development sites.

Examples can include first level management assignment locations and locations where we could develop apprentices in skilled trades.

A typical approach to assessing an organization’s development capacity is to determine the maximum number of trainees that can be handled. There is a useful “rule-of-thumb” in technical development of needing four qualified people for one trainee. Using such a guideline an organization can quickly identify the number of experiential development sites it has in its system. If there are 20 sites and 12 of them have four or more applicable skilled technical people in them, then the organization can in theory have as  many as 12 trainees at any one time.

But are there 12 suitable sites available? Until we examine their “fitness” to develop capacity we don’t know. One client I worked with had a situation similar to the one just described. What we learned was that some of the potential sites had systemic performance and subculture issues. In many cases these were long standing issues. Anybody who was assigned for development in these sites would learn a number of “talent” that were far from desirable. As a result the TM strategy had to work with a reality of there being approximately one third of these potential sites being considered inappropriate for development assignments.

What I found interesting was there had been a passive acceptance of these sites being problematic. The consequences seemed to those in charge as bearable (in contrast to the work and effort needed to correct them). I am fully aware of how hard it can be to deal with singular performance issues, let alone several work group ones.

What was not understood was the impact on their TM strategy regarding a particular critical skilled work group. They actually needed all 12 sites to be effective development areas if the organization was to ensure its needed technical competency over the years to come. The current situation created a very recognizable U&R for the organization.

The leadership had to decide which U&R set to live with: increased cost of doing business on its competitive position (leave the status quo, quo); or deal with the difficulties and damage incurred through trying to rectify the situation (“manage” the performance issues).

Rick Lash (Hay Group Canada, Toronto) in a Vancouver Sun article (Best companies take time to develop best leaders: survey, 17 Feb., 2011, page E3) was reported to say:

“The best predictor of somebody growing to be a senior leader in an organization is whether or not the first manager they had was really an outstanding manager”


This observation by Lash parallels exactly what have been noted above.


About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
This entry was posted in Decison Making, Risk & Uncertainty, Talent Manangement. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s